On the Chocolate Trail

Bringing Buckeye Candy to Experts

I only know about Buckeyes because I have family in Ohio. I love peanut butter and chocolate together so I decided to make them for the first time for a 4th of July party for local friends and family in Cincinnati, mixing in small amounts of presumption, appreciation and exploration. Some might say stupidity. After all these folks are Buckeye experts.

Buckeye trees abound in Ohio. The Buckeye Ball resembles the nut of the tree. Some say that the association of buckeyes with the state of Ohio stems to General William Henry Harrison in 1840 when he referred to the “Buckeye State” in his election campaign. Or, native Americans saw Colonial Ebenezer Sproat process with a sword extended to open the first court in the Northwest Territory in 1788  in Marietta, Ohio, and they nicknamed him after “the eye of the buck.” In 1952 the Ohio General Assembly declared the buckeye the official state tree.

If there were an official state candy it would probably be the Buckeye, the chocolate enrobed peanut butter ball that resembles the nut of the buckeye tree. Columbus company Anthony Thomas produces 100,000 pounds of buckeyes each year. Coco Beans Candy boasts the world’s largest Buckeye, weighing 271 pounds in Fremont, Ohio.

Gail Tabor claims to have created the first Buckeye Balls according to an article she wrote for the Arizona Republic in 1983. Years prior to the article, during Christmas season, she was trying out a candy recipe. Thinking it did not look right, she showed it to her husband and then realized “Hey, it looks like a Buckeye.”

Tabor concocted lots of them for friends and family and they were wildly popular. People repeatedly asked for the recipe. She resisted. Every year for 17 years she made the Buckeye Balls  for the Ohio State-Michigan game. Finally Tabor gave in and gave the recipe to a woman who was moving to Oklahoma, figuring it would stay secret. Only later did Tabor find out later that she had been betrayed when the recipe was published in the Ohio State Alumni Magazine as having been created by that “friend.”


The recipe that Tabor tried to protect all those years contained 4 pounds of powdered sugar to 6 or more tablespoons of smooth peanut butter. The chocolate was mixed with a block of canning wax. I selected the Smitten Kitchen (Deb Perelman) recipe with its decreased sugar, plus add-ins of cream cheese and graham crackers. This foodified things for the sophisticated palates of my Buckeye experts. I in turn adjusted Perelman’s version, using a crunchy wholesome peanut butter and a bit of oil (people recommend rapeseed) in the chocolate to make it shinier and harder.

My gracious Cincinnati friends kindly said they liked them. I would even share the recipe if they asked.

Buckeyes from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 36 to 42 tablespoon-sized candies; I made 64 with a #70 (1/2-ounce) scoop and got 64

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups peanut butter (smooth, but you can use chunky if you are looking for more texture)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 graham crackers)

Salt (optional)

3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for 10 seconds. Add the sugar and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until it stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping. Set it aside while you prepare the coating.

Make the coating: Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool to tepid (about 100 degrees, though I’d go a little cooler next time for a thicker coating; I had a few ounces of chocolate leftover) while you shape the peanut butter centers. {DRP: I added a small amount of vegetable oil to the chocolate. People recommend rapeseed oil for this}

Assemble the candies: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than one tablespoon’s worth of filling (their suggestion; I used a scoop that made them a little smaller) and use your hands to form it into a ball. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped. They can sit close to each other but make sure they are not touching.

Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated. Play around with a few practice pieces; I found it easiest to stick the skewer in the side, angle the bowl I was using towards it and make sure it became submerged as I rolled the candy around. But don’t fuss too much; even the “ugly” ones won’t go to waste.

Chill the Buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.


One thought on “Bringing Buckeye Candy to Experts”

  1. Karin says:

    My Mom and her friends in Western Pennsylvania have been making buckeyes at Christmas since at least the 1970’s- probably earlier. Several people may have invented them at similar times. Regardless, the Smitten recipe is the best I’ve made. (I use Callebaut and my chocolate tempering machine)

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